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Leighton Ford Ministries

Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves

By | Food for thought | No Comments

Every day, you and I are being challenged to practice social distancing as absolutely crucial in dealing with this global pandemic.

Jeanie and I are seeking to do that . . . religiously! As Christ followers we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.

A group of doctors are prescribing an additional way not only to defeat the virus but to improve our whole lives. They serve in such prestigious medical centers as Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Case Western Reserve, and Nemours Children’s Health Systems.

Here is a section of their report worth reading and passing around:

“As a society, we may come out ahead in the end of this epidemic, if, instead of social distancing, we instead pursue physical distancing with social connectedness. What if we kept apart physically, but used that new space – in our heads and our hearts and our habitats – to reach out to the most vulnerable and isolated in ways that are physically but not emotionally remote? What if we protected our physical selves while making our non-physical selves more vulnerable to the suffering of others? The current disruptions are a great opportunity if we keep grounded in core principles – such as investing in relationship – as we innovate, rather than letting the superficial conditioning toward greed, anger, and fear take the fore.

“Human connectedness – love – is more contagious than coronavirus.”

As you and I stay home, wear our masks, and stand 6 feet apart . . . what an opportunity to practice what these doctors recommend! – Leighton Ford

Billy’s Cross

By | Poetry | No Comments

BILLY’S CROSS
A Meditation for his 95th birthday.

The cross!
The cross!
the young preacher cried
to the vast crowds
in the football stadiums of the world.

The cross!
the old man says in his husky voice
sitting next to his dog
on the porch of his log house,
gazing with faded eyes at the blue ridged hills.

The cross!
Above his chair in the kitchen
a small cloth banner … a reminder:
“God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But why?
Why glory in the cross?
Didn’t Jesus on the cross ask “Why?”

I think I know my brother-in-law
well enough to know
why the cross matters to him so
that after these ninety-five years
he makes it his last word.

He knows how much he himself needs grace.
When he meets the Lord
he’s not going to puff his chest, stick out his hand
and say, “ I’m Billy Graham, your chief envoy.”
Knowing him he’ll be prostrate, on his face,
Saying “Thank You for your mercy,
for choosing me, a sinner.

But it’s not as if he thinks of the cross only as a ticket to heaven.

He knows that coming to the Cross costs nothing, and everything.
How many times I’ve heard him quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“When Christ calls a man, he calls him to die.”
And Jesus: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
He knows that the Cross offers both free grace
And a call to die daily to self-glory.

Billy is a preacher, not a poet,
but I think he’d agree with a poet who writes,
“I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross
when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness,
cries out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”

(Christian Wiman)

I have seen him gaze with longing at the picture of
his departed and beloved Ruth, wince at the pain
that runs through his jaw and down his leg.
At the Washington Cathedral after 9/11 he said,
“I don’t know why God allowed this. It’s a mystery.”
But he knows that on the cross God was saying
“I am with you, not beyond you, in suffering.”

There’s more. A Chinese scholar once told me,
“When Billy Graham came to China
he came not with a closed fist, but an open hand.”
That’s because he knows there’s a paradox in the cross
(though he might not call it that).

The cross is both the narrowest gate
and the widest welcome to new life.
The narrowest, for Jesus said, “I am the door, the way.”
The widest because he also said,
“Whoever comes to me I will not turn away.”

That gate is open to all who seek God’s grace
and are willing to receive it,
people of every kind and condition –
liberal, conservative
Tea Party, Occupier
Straight or otherwise
Republican, Democrat, Libertarian
Sarah P and Nancy P
Episcopal, Baptist, Catholic, or “none”
All kinds of sinners and seekers.

In the cross of Christ God throws open the gate of new life and says,
“Welcome. There’s room in my house for you. Come in.
And you’ll be changed into what I created you to be
– a human fully redeemed.”

We can hang a cross round our neck,
gaze at it on a steeple,
but it is far more than an icon.
The cross tells us that life itself, creation itself
is cross-shaped, cruciformed,
the hope of  healing for a broken world.

The cross!
Billy has preached the cross,
successfully.
He also has lived it, or, better
lived by it,
faithfully.

Leighton Ford
November 2013

 

 

Thoughts During the Pandemic – a brief essay from LFM’s Jim Osterhaus

By | Food for thought | No Comments

Dr. Jim Osterhaus is Senior Executive Coach for Leighton Ford Ministries and has authored or co-authored 10 books on leadership

 

Like most of you, I’m basically sheltered in place with my wife at home, catching up on a good deal of reading, and trying to stay in contact with family and friends.

I just got off the phone with Wendy Der, who along with her husband Ivan, lead a ministry of evangelism in Mexico that extends around the world. As we free associated on what is happening, it occurred to me to put down some thoughts that might prove helpful to the mentoring community.

I have done some reading on the Black Death plague in the 14th Century that basically killed a third of Europe, and on the Swine Flu epidemic that swept the world during and shortly after World War I killing between 50 and 100 million people worldwide (more exact estimates are impossible because of faulty data from the developing world). I am struck by the fact that these pandemics triggered a paradigm shift throughout the world. This shift saw the fundamental altering of theories and methodologies by which society saw itself, ran its core institutions, conducted its business, and basically went about its daily living patterns.

Depending on the length and severity of Covid-19, the world may experience the same phenomenon within the next year or two.

David Brooks (columnist for The New York Times) has noted that differing from war crises that tend to drive people together to address a common threat, pandemics tend to drive people apart as they worry about contagion and compete for dwindling resources (e.g. The run on toilet paper).

It seems to me that this new crisis presents us with two interrelated challenges. On the one hand, we must look inward to see how each of us individually is being affected. On the other hand, we must look to our communities, and in particular our kingdom communities, to see how this crisis is affecting them.

As Thomas Boswell, columnist for The Washington Post, said: “Perhaps what is most endangered now is neither our lives nor our jobs nor our savings – though all are in peril – but our internal lives.” He goes on to ask whether, after this pandemic has run its course and the isolation has ceased, will we keep intact all of our best qualities?

When so much of the external world shuts down, we find ourselves left with only ourselves. And for many of us, we have not taken much time to cultivate a rich inner life as a viable default position. That being the case, we find ourselves going ‘stir crazy’ unable to decide how to proceed.

It seems to me that this present situation presents to our kingdom communities a unique opportunity. Called to be salt and light, it now behooves us to begin strategizing how we can move into this very anxious externally focused world in authentic kingdom ways. And as Boswell so aptly states, it is our internal lives that now need to be the target of our strategies.

For the past year, I have been partially retired, retired enough if you will to understand what it’s like to have many of the normal distractions of an active employed life peeled away. And now all of us are finding ourselves in a very similar place, even if we’re 25 years old.

Within our mentoring community, it behooves each of us to begin, or to ramp up, or to continue our diligence in inner life development. A good place to start might be to turn to the experts. Richard Foster and James B. Smith have edited Devotional Classics, a compilation down through the centuries of some of the best in devotional literature. Leighton Ford (A Life of Listening and The Attentive Life) and Ken Shigematsu (Survival Guide for the Soul) have written very useful books along these lines. Added to these are the countless tomes that have been penned through the ages by St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc. etc. This will help us get our own houses in order.

As we continue to focus on our inner lives, we need to focus on our kingdom communities. It is these communities that will sustain us going forward in our journeys of faith.

It is obvious there are old ways of gathering together in worship, fellowship, teaching and prayer that are no longer possible, at least in short run. Churches like my own have shifted to online services. Small groups are zooming to maintain continuity.

But as I think about it, there are a myriad of stylized ways of doing community that are currently being altered or discarded, and arguably should be altered or discarded as we confront the fearful post-Christian world.

Crisis presents opportunity, and this pandemic is no exception. And as a kingdom community, I think it is important that we now bring our collective heads together to begin to explore what opportunities God is currently placing before us during this crisis.

I would like this to be the beginning of a conversation for all of us to reflect on the following two questions, and to share with one another what God is and has been telling us as the pandemic unfolds.

First, what are ways that we have existed in the past with ourselves and in our mentoring groups that are simply not possible currently? This question can also apply to all faith communities in which we are currently resident. I think it is critical to first begin to identify all of those behaviors that we have possibly held dear that no longer can be relied upon.

  • Intentional face-to-face connections with people important to us.
  • Partnered kingdom projects within the community.

Second, what adaptions have we made or could make to maintain our continuity within our mentoring community?

  • Zoom calls.
  • Internet community reach outs.

Let’s get our collective heads together, and take this opportunity to possibly explode our old paradigms and expand our thinking. Remember, necessity is the mother of invention. And quite possibly God has given us this opportunity to create new ways of furthering His kingdom.

What is God Doing During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

By | Food for thought | No Comments

A friend asked me yesterday what I thought God was doing through the coronavirus pandemic.

I hesitated to come up with an answer, remembering that God told Isaiah “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8).  He also rebuked Job’s speculations about the reason for his misfortunes, asking, “who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38.2).

So how could anyone be presumptuous enough to try to explain what God is doing?

On reflection, though, I can venture to say that He is reminding us control freaks how little we really do control.

And perhaps He is reminding us to “be still and know that I am God.”

I understand that there are many who desperately need and want to be able to go to work, and I hope they will soon.  And there are over-stressed doctors and nurses who can barely keep going.

But I am also reminded that the French thinker Pascal famously wrote that the cause of many of the world’s problems is that we do not know how to sit still alone in our room for one hour.

For some of us, could it be that the LORD is whispering, “This is a time to be still.  And to listen for My voice while you wait?”

 

-Leighton Ford, March 2020